Care An Asparagus

Care In First Year Of Planting

Staying on top of weeds is the main priority and this it easier if you prepared thoroughly. After midsummer or when stems reach 1.2m (4ft) high, it’s worth tying the stems of each plant to a stout cane, unless your plot is very sheltered. Foliage dies back by November, then cut stems to 5cm (2in) above ground level and remove to compost/recycle, and mulch with an inch or so of compost, and in every succeeding year.

Care In Year Two And Supports

How many emerging weed seedlings until about mid-April, but hand weed around the crowns. There is still no harvest to take and by late May you should have strong growth of ferns up to 2m (6ft 6in) high, so staking is almost certainly needed. For example you can run a wire around the bed to keep ferns from falling over. Continue removing any small weeds you see, to prevent any from seeding, or perennial weeds from establishing.

green asparagus

Harvesting

From now on you have a joyful two months of picking, whenever spears are 17-20cm (7-8in) long, cut at ground level. Or уou can allow spears to grow 30cm (12in) long and snap them off,  which save having stringy bottoms and reduces any spread of disease on a knife blade. Always harvest before the tips start to open before stents become fibrous. In warm weather this means harvesting every day, otherwise every two or three days.

The harvest period is from about April 23, until the summer solstice, and do resist the temptation to continue harvesting in July or your plants will produce fewer spears the next spring. They need a whole summer of fern growth to restore their roots, which have been weakened by the spring harvesting period.

Varieties

Choose carefully because they are growing for a long time. I recommend avoiding the old open-pollinated varieties, whose half-male and half-female plants produce fewer spears because females put energy into berries for seed – which then grow as weeds and need removing.

All-male hybrid varieties produce up to three times more spears. A variation is purple varieties which have 25% more sugars, look great and taste good raw, but are less productive and need extra support in windy locations.

“CONNOVER’S COLOSSAL”: Crops well but grows some plants with thin spears, and half will bear berries by autumn (not hybrid).

“GIJNLIM” is widely grown for high yields of spears which start early (all male).

“GUELPH MILLENNIUM”: This is recommended for colder climates but is prone to rust, may crop into July (all male).

“JERSEY KNIGHT”: Productive in hot weather (over 21C/70F) but prone to opening its fern while still short. ‘Jersey Giant’ is resistant to rust (all male).

“MONDEO”: High yielding and disease resistant (all male).

“PACIFIC PURPLE”: High yielding in rich soil, Stewart’s Purple’ less so (all made).

Troubleshooting

Asparagus Beetles (Crioceris asparagi) are 6mm long, black with reddish spots.

Rust establishes in summer where winds are light and dews are heavy. Remove any stems with rusty pustules, as soon as you see them, to burn or send for recycling.

Rabbits like young spears: covering beds with fleece in the spring is an option and will promote new growth.

Slugs eat new growth in spring to adopt your usual controls.

 

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